Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

S&P 500 drifts close to record heights after jobless report

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is drifting Thursday, and the S&P 500 is again on the verge of erasing the very last of its pandemic losses. The S&P 500 was 0.1% higher in afternoon trading at 3,383.64. Earlier in the afternoon, it briefly rose above 3,386.15, which was the record closing level it set in February before investors appreciated how much devastation the new coronavirus would cause for the global economy. Treasury yields were also relatively steady after a report showed that 963,000 U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits last week. It’s an incredibly high number, but still the lowest tally since March.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-JOBLESS CLAIMS

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US jobless claims fall below 1 million but remain high

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of laid-off workers applying for unemployment aid fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the pandemic intensified five months ago, yet still remains at a high level. The viral pandemic keeps forcing layoffs just as the expiration of a $600-a-week federal jobless benefit has deepened the hardships for many. The Labor Department said applications fell to 963,000, the second straight drop, from 1.2 million the previous week. The decline suggests that layoffs are slowing, though last week’s figure still exceeds the pre-pandemic record of just under 700,000.

MORTGAGE RATES

Long-term mortgage rates rise; 30-year at 2.96%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. average rates on long-term mortgages rose this week but remained at historically low levels. The key 30-year loan stayed below 3%. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year home loan increased to 2.96% from 2.88% last week. By contrast, the rate averaged 3.60% a year ago.The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 2.46% from 2.44% from last week.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

For Americans waiting on virus aid, no new relief in sight

WASHINGTON (AP) — With Washington talks on emergency coronavirus aid having stalled, both sides are playing the blame game rather than making any serious moves to try to break their stalemate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday pressed the case for funding for the U.S. Postal Service, rental assistance, food aid and rapid virus testing. Pelosi blasts Republicans as not caring and says “people will die” if the delay grinds into September. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats are “rejecting any more relief for anyone unless they get a flood of demands with no real relationship to COVID-19.” Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow says, “It’s a stalemate.”

TRUMP-POSTAL SERVICE

Trump opposes postal money that would help vote-by-mail

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he opposes additional funding for the U.S. Postal Service, acknowledging that his position would starve the agency of money Democrats say it needs to process an anticipated surge in mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. The Republican president said Thursday on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria” that among the sticking points over a new virus relief package were Democrats’ demand for billions of dollars to assist states in protecting the election and to help postal workers process mail-in ballots. The campaign of Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, jumped on Trump’s comments, likening the president’s actions to sabotage.

CRYPTOCURRENCY SEIZURE-MILITANT GROUPS

US seizes digital currency accounts used by militant groups

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has seized millions of dollars from cryptocurrency accounts used by militant organizations based abroad, including the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. Officials say the groups relied on the account to raise money for their operations. Officials are describing it as the largest-ever seizure of digital currency funds related to terrorism. The Trump administration says the groups used the accounts to solicit donations for their causes, including through a bogus scam that officials say purported to sell protective gear for the coronavirus pandemic. The department says it’s seized millions of dollars, more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts and four websites.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-WHO-VACCINE

WHO: Russian vaccine not in advanced test stages

LONDON (AP) — The World Health Organization says the vaccine approved by Russia this week is not among the nine that it considers in the advanced stages of testing. WHO and partners have included nine experimental COVID-19 vaccines within an investment mechanism it is encouraging countries to join, known as the Covax facility. The initiative allows countries to invest in several vaccines to obtain early access, while theoretically providing funding for developing countries. This week, President Vladimir Putin announced Russia had approved a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to complete advanced trials in people and claimed, without evidence, the immunization protects people for up to two years.

BANKRUPT AIRLINE-EMPLOYEE BONUSES

Bankrupt Alaska airline seeks bonus for its chief executive

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The largest rural airline in Alaska has declared bankruptcy and laid off more than a thousand workers but wants $250,000 in bonuses to be awarded to its chief executive and other employees. Alaska Public Radio reported that RavnAir Group filed the request Tuesday in Delaware bankruptcy court. Lawyers for the company say the bonuses are justified because of the hard work that went into selling the company’s assets after it shut down during the pandemic. Chief Executive Officer Dave Pflieger has already collected $1.4 million i the past year. It is unclear how much would go toward Pflieger and the other employees. Company spokeswoman Debbie Reinwand didn’t respond to a request for comment.

GERMANY-DAIMLER-EMISSIONS SCANDAL

Daimler reaches deal to settle US diesel emissions claims

BERLIN (AP) — The maker of Mercedes-Benz cars says it has reached an agreement in principle to settle U.S. claims over emissions from its diesel vehicles for over $2.2 billion. Daimler AG said Thursday that the agreement with various U.S. authorities concerns civil and environmental claims involving about 250,000 diesel cars and vans. It said the civil cases related to a a class action lawsuit pending before the U.S. District Court for New Jersey. The company says the settlement will result in costs of about $1.5 billion, while the civil suit will incur a charge of about $700 million. Like rival Volkswagen and other automakers, Daimler was caught advertising lower emissions for diesel vehicles than they actually produced.

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES-DEDICATED LANES

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The state of Michigan and private partners are taking steps toward building or assigning dedicated lanes for automated vehicles on a 40-mile stretch of highway between Detroit and Ann Arbor. Organizers say the project is the first of its kind in the U.S. A two-year study would determine whether existing lanes or shoulders can be used, or new lanes need to be built. Eventually, autonomous buses and shuttles will run along the Interstate 94 corridor, linking the University of Michigan to Detroit Metropolitan Airport and the city’s downtown. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other officials are scheduled to announce the project Thursday afternoon.

FILM-AMC REOPENING

AMC to offer 15-cent tickets on first day of reopening

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s largest movie theater chain will reopen in the U.S. on Aug. 20 with retro ticket prices of 15 cents per movie. AMC Entertainment said Thursday that it expects to open the doors to more than 100 cinemas — or about a sixth of its nationwide locations — on Aug. 20 with throwback pricing for a day. AMC theaters have reopened in numerous international countries but have remained shuttered in the U.S. since March. The chain touted the reopening as “Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices.” Regal Cinemas, the second largest chain, is to reopen some U.S. locations on Aug. 21.

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